Backpackers hotel in the centre of the new city, but just 5 mins walk from the old city. A reasonably well maintained hotel in a centuries-old Damascene 'Arabic House'. It's courtyard will transport you back through the ages - the ivy sheltering you from the sun, and the sound of car horns a couple of blocks away. Some rooms have en-suite facilities. Most rooms are double, but there are one or two dorms for the really tight-fisted. Prices are about Â£2-Â£3 per room per night. Yes, that is two pounds I've typed. Welcome to Syria! If you want something a bit higher standard, the nearby Al-Majed hotel is a world apart. Definately not for backpackers, this one. It's lobby and rooms feel like a three/four star hotel in Britain. Price per room is Â£15 per night.
Al-Rabie and Al-Majed are in Souq Saroujah - very close to Merjeh Square (the centre of the new city). Most taxi drivers know Al-Rabie (pronounced Rab-ee-ah) in Souq Saroujah - they might have more difficulty finding the Majed. saroujah.blogspot.com
A party palace of a hostel with clean, modern bathrooms located in the gorgeous (though rowdy by night) Placa Reial just off Las Ramblas. Lots of fun with organised pub crawls and a rooftop bar, Kabul can be noisy at night but is never boring. Good-sized lockers by each bunk and a vending machine selling one-euro beers in the bar. Ace.
A combined hostel/hotel, the Gershwin is a good option for budget accommodation right in the heart of the Flatiron district. Handy for lots of attractions - a short walk to the Empire State Building. It's also very trendy and attracts a fun bunch of international travellers.
Ice cream cafe and art gallery. Marvellous organic ice cream from Devon. Run by lovely ex-pat Galina and Kirstin. Easy, friendly ambience in centre of Bohemian East Berlin. Art works change every month. Great to sit and chill out. B&B possible too, with English-speaking flat owner.
Zionskirchstrasse 75, Berlin 10119; Nearest metro: Senefelderplatz; Tel: (004930) 44038577
This is very friendly B&B which is very reasonable for Venice and serves a fantastic breakfast, local bread, cheeses, fruit salad, and freshly squeezed orange juice.
B&B Sandra, Sestiere di Cannaregio 2452, 30121 Venezia; www.bbalessandra.com/index.php
I'm here to represent the proverbial little guy among the world-renowned parks and buildings of Manhattan. A 20-block walk from Grand Central is the Gershwin Hotel, a building that whip-lashes the eye on first alight. There's nothing pedestrian about this place, so prepare for an image-overload fest of artwork and photographic portraits, harking back to Studio 54 days. With its funky front - killer red with iluminated fibre-glass and metal protrusions - it's difficult to miss. Warhol is a bit of a deity here, and his work is definitely "home" within its walls. I stayed in a 6-bunk room with shared bathroom which set me back 30 happily-spent dollars for clean, basic accommodation and genuinely-friendly service. The price range does jump considerably for private and suite accommodation, but that's what makes the place even more unique to my mind. For couples on a budget, unisex bunks are also on offer.
East 27th/7th, off 5th Avenue
This is an exquisite hotel, listed in The Best Small Hotels in the World. Service is excellent, no tips allowed, and the food is generally very good.
The website for the Serena Hotels is: www.serenahotels.com/pakistan/islamabad/home.htm
I was attracted by the name, and delighted to find a charming yet amazingly cheap hotel bang in the centre of Mexico City. The enormous rooms are centred around an airy atrium, and the hotel bar is perfect for an ice cold Corona after the heat of the city. Far superior to the other 'backpacker' options, with internet access and helpful staff.
Isabel la Catolica 63 (Isabel la Catolica metro)
Sometimes, when the mercury is nudging 40 degrees and there isn't space on the beach for a German to lay out a handkerchief, let alone a towel, escape from the heat and clamour of Rio can be a welcome relief. The traditional getaway route for Cariocas is to take the Washington Luis highway to the cool mountain cities of Petrópolis, Teresópolis and Nova Friburgo.
Recently though, some of a more enterprising nature have begun to open up the Serra Fluminense above the oil boom town of Macaé in the north of Rio State. The centerpiece of this area is the sleepy hill town of Sana, a bridging point across the crystalline, cascading waters of the Sana River, guarded by the majestic 3,700 foot Pedra do Peito do Pombo (Pigeon Breast Rock).
The best choices for accommodation in Sana are the town’s charming and inexpensive pousadas. Highly recommended is the pretty Repousa da Sana, with its mature gardens, restaurant serving tasty local dishes cooked in a wood burning oven (ask for the baked trout), shop selling local crafts and its comfy, tastefully decorated riverside chalets.
A big bonus here is that the owner, Antenor Sousa, speaks passable English, a rarity in this part of the world. He is a keen photographer and has spent the last 20 years documenting the town and its surroundings so there isn’t a lot he doesn’t know about the place.
For travelers with an eye on their budget, many pousadas also offer a camping option with bathroom and laundry facilities. From your base in town you can take guided walks to the dozens of waterfalls and natural swimming pools that dot the region, trek up some of Sana’s steepling granite peaks or enjoy a very agreeable couple of days’ pony trekking. There’s also enough rock climbing, abseiling, mountain biking, kayaking and white water rafting to keep the adventure sports enthusiast absorbed for days.
And after these strenuous calisthenics, what better way to wind down than in a hammock on your chalet deck, caipirinha strategically placed at arm’s length, with the calls of roosting flocks of parrots and the chattering of the river lulling you to sleep? Keep a weather eye on your drink though, as the local Micou monkeys, emboldened by human contact, are rather partial to those cachaça-impregnated lemons.
I should point out one small inconvenience. The nearest bank is 12 miles away in Casimiro de Abreu and, as telephones are a relatively new phenomenon in Sana, many of the town’s pousadas, bars and restaurants don’t accept credit cards.
However, carrying cash does not present the safety risks that it does in Rio. You are less likely to be mugged than savaged by a member of the town’s bovine community which outnumbers the human population by some distance, in other words, not very likely at all.
There is no direct public transport link between Rio and Sana. Take an air conditioned coach from the Terminal Rodoviaria Novo Rio to the town of Casimiro de Abreu (the journey last about three hours), from whence you can catch one of the large number of VW Combis that shuttle between Casimiro and Sana. Don't worry when you hit a dirt road as you wind your way up into the hills; the district council in Macaé has plans to pave it but it hasn't happened yet. The Repousa da Sana is about two kilometres before the town centre on your left. Ask the driver to drop you there. There are two websites in Portuguese that you will find useful, the general information site, www.portaldosana.com.br, and the Repousa da Sana's homepage, www.repousadasana.com.br.
This is one of the world's best small luxury hotels, right in the heart of Paris, and blocks from the Louvre and Palace Garnier (opera house). The historic building, with a round lift, has several beautifully decorated suites. The staff are attentive and arrange anything. Special offers on the hotel website can bring the price down to a 2-for-1. So if you want a multi-room suite, this is the way to go.
When in Barcelona I have always rented an apartment. You get to live like a local, at half the price of a hotel and you can be right in the centre. I always like to stay in Barri Gottic area as this is best located for the beach and all the tourist attractions as well as being one of the prettiest parts of Barecelona.
I have used this company twice and they have very beautiful apartments but make sure you confirm how many rooms are in an apartment as pictures can be deceptive: www.tourismbarcelona.com
The White House is a lovely little hotel in Kemp Town, just 30 seconds from the sea front. It's run by a very friendly young couple who are very accomodating and welcoming. Each room is decorated in a different style and breakfasts are absolutely delicious (and huge!). This is a really stylish yet cosy, good value hotel.
6 Bedford Street, Brighton, BN2 1AN; Tel: 01273 626266; www.whitehousebrighton.com
There are really very few nice hotels in central London - the rooms are small, the rates are high. One Aldwych is probably the best of the bunch if you want something a bit more modern (not a gilded chair in sight), and it has a large swimming pool in the basement. Sited in the Aldwych it is very handy for either Covent Garden or crossing the river to the South Bank.
A branch of the London members' only club and sister hotel to Babington House, this is a very expensive downtown option which is not for those who like formal service, trouser presses and in-room IT support. Having said that the rooms, even the small ones, are fantastic in terms of size for New York and the rooftop pool terrace is a brilliant place to sit and watch the Hudson go by.
Sawanoya Ryokan is a family-run budget ryokan/hotel in the Shitamachi area of Tokyo, near Ueno Park. Single rooms are available, at around 5,000 yen per night, double rooms at under 10,000 yen. It's a ryokan, so you sleep on a futon on the floor, and in most cases the bath and toilets are shared. (There are a couple of en suite double rooms.) This is where I always stayed in Tokyo before moving here; it's a budget place but there is absolutely nothing wrong with it; it's clean, the food is good, the location is convenient, and the owners are friendly and speak enough English to communicate. There are also some nice touches, like the wooden trays that breakfast comes on, that give it a bit more class.
www.sawanoya.com/ Address: 2-3-11,Yanaka,Taito-Ku,Tokyo, 110-0001 JAPAN Phone: +81-3-3822-2251 Facsimile: +81-3-3822-2252 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Metro: Nezu, Chiyoda Line. Within walking distance of JR Ueno Station if you are feeling energetic.
A couple of years ago my "Cariocissima" wife and I resolved to escape the barely concealed chaos and hassle of Rio de Janeiro's Zona Sul and make our home in the boho paradise of Santa Teresa. We haven't regretted the decision for a second.
Santa, as it is known locally, is perched precariously on the edge of the Serra da Carioca, nestling under Corcovado mountain and the Christo statue, and enjoys breathtaking views of the North and South Zones of the city and Guanabara Bay beyond.
Do you have an urge to avoid the brutal, soulless architectural horrors that pass for hotels in Copacabana and Ipanema? Do you hanker after the real Rio at a much a slower pace? Then look no further than a few nights' bed and breakfast among the colonial mansions, steep, serpentine cobbled streets and tropical greenery of Santa.
Cama e Café (Bed and Breakfast) is a company run by a friendly, English-speaking crowd, who can arrange B&B accommodation ranging from the former residence of one Ronald Arthur Biggs to a cell in a baroque convent for around £15-£35 a night. And if you really can’t do without enduring the tumult of the beach at Copacabana it’s a mere 25 minutes away by Metro.
Cama e Café's website can be found at www.camaecafe.com.br, or they can be reached by 'phone on 00 55 21 2224-5689. To get to their office From Zona Sul take the Metro from Siqueira Campos or Cardeal Arcoverde Station (make sure you buy an "Integração" ticket for around 50 pence). From Carioca station take the 214a integração microbus, marked Paula Mattos, as far as Rua Progresso. Ask the driver to drop you outside their office at number 67.
This charmingly old-fashioned, friendly but eccentric hotel is very reasonably priced. It is perfectly situated on the banks of the Po, about 10 minutes walk from the Tower, but far enough away from the thronging tourists. You can hire bicycles from the hotel and there is a pretty roof terrace.
12 Lungarno Pacinotti; Tel: 940 111; Nearest station: Pisa; www.royalvictoria.it/
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